The scene on Cass Ave. in Woonsocket Thursday night outside Landmark Medical Center as Woonsocket and State Police prepare to move in a gunman carrying a .22 caliber rifle. (PHOTO BY ERNEST A. BROWN)
WOONSOCKET â€“ A distraught man allegedly carrying a .22-caliber rifle into Landmark Medical Centerâ€™s ER Thursday evening sparked a two-hour lockdown of the Cass Avenue Hospital that ended when Woonsocket Special Response Team members and R.I. State Police set off a stun grenade and safely subdued him.
The incident was reported to have begun just before 7 p.m., when the man entered the ER with the rifle and reportedly threatened to harm himself with the weapon.
The hospitalâ€™s staff responded by issuing a code alert for a person with a gun drawing Woonsocket Police Department members, fire and rescue personnel and state troopers to the scene, where they quickly closed off Cass Avenue and began talks with the unidentified man.
Det. Sgt. Matthew Ryan said he made contact with the man at the scene and said he indicated he was upset over family issues and went to the ER with the rifle with an apparent intent to harm himself.
â€śWe spoke for about 45 minutes,â€ť Ryan said of the discussion with the armed man.
The incident apparently moved to a conclusion after additional state police SWAT team members were seen arriving at the ERâ€™s side entrance and carrying in a gun case and a defensive shield while wearing full camouflaged body armor.
The takedown move appeared imminent as another Special Response Team member rushed into the ER side entrance at 8:56 p.m.
A loud bang from the flash grenade sounded at approximately 8:57 p.m., signaling the move to rush the man was under way.
Woonsocket SRT members later reported that the man had been subdued without injuring himself or any of the responding police officers.
â€śYes, everybody is OK, allâ€™s well that ends well,â€ť a helmeted, armed and camouflaged member of the Woonsocket Special Response Team said as a group of the team members exited the side entrance of the ER minutes later.
It remained unclear Thursday evening whether the manâ€™s gun discharged in the takedown as it was hit by officers, or if he attempted to fire it toward himself.
That part of incident remains under investigation.
A woman who had been working in the hospital while it was locked down also reported that the incident had ended without anyone being hurt, as she left building at about the same time.
The state police officers leaving the scene referred all questions about the incident to the Woonsocket police, but also indicated that the emergency had ended with a brief â€śItâ€™s all over.â€ť
The lockdown had drawn members of the media to Cass Avenue at the edge of the parking lot of the commercial plaza across the street, and after the incident concluded, the media was allowed to move more in front of the main entrance to the ER across Cass Avenue as police continued to investigate at the scene.
Ryan said Woonsocket police were still reviewing the events in the ER earlier in the evening and would have more to say about any charges facing the man in custody on Friday.
â€śAt this point, it ended peacefully, he is uninjured at this time and he is being evaluated as we speak,â€ť Ryan said.
The SRT was deployed to retain control of the scene while the incident was under way, and all of the participating members would be debriefed Thursday night as the investigation continued, Ryan said.
â€śIt is still under investigation and we have to do the debriefing,â€ť he said afterward.
As for the handling of the emergency situation at Landmark, Ryan said he believed everyone involved had done a tremendous job given the outcome.
â€śIt was excellent, everyone, the Rhode Island State Police were instrumental in helping us and our SRT officers and patrol officers on the scene, everyone did a fantastic job and I canâ€™t say enough about them and Iâ€™m sure the chief feels the same way,â€ť Ryan said.
Chief Thomas S. Carey, standing with Ryan and the other responding officers outside the ER, voiced similar praise.
â€śIt was a great job. In any of these operations preservation of life is critical,â€ť he said.
â€śNobody was injured and everybody is safe and that is the most important thing,â€ť Carey said.